On their major-label debut (following several indie label releases), Tinfed strains after similar mellifluous 21st Century electronic-rock territory tread by such idiosyncratic British stalwarts as Radiohead and Travis. Although they ultimately fail to attain the same levels of esoteric complexity as those bands (ending up closer to Smashing Pumpkins), they come close to reaching their goal at various times throughout the album, making for a flawed but lovely effort that suggests better music to come from them, particularly in the area of songwriting. As a vocalist, Rey Osburn tries too intensely to sound moody. He attempts to approximate the vocal tics of Thom Yorke or the oddball vibrato of Craig Wedren, when he has a perfectly interesting voice all his own. At the same time, those vocal affectations are almost required to counteract the disappointing production. On first listen the music is a bumrush of heavy sonics, a thrilling wave to immerse oneself in. But gradually the limitations begin to emerge. When Osburn favors subtlety and expressiveness -- a tact he performs exceedingly well, when he does it -- his voice is buried beneath buzzsaw guitars that have a tendency to make the band sound like just another faceless alternative band. Despite Tinfed's consistently intriguing writing, the music doesn't end up sounding distinct enough to separate itself from the "alternative" MTV crowd, if that is something intended in the first place. Only intent listening lays bare the band's distinguishing characteristics: meaty melodies that continue to contain their weight after many listens, a unifying vision, powerful (as opposed to loud) playing, and legitimate vision. Instead of accentuating those subtle but authentic attributes, producer Ed Buller went for a smooth, shiny commercial production. Tinfed may not wear their quirks as conspicuously as some of the previous bands that Buller worked with (Suede, Pulp), but ignoring them polishes the edges off the band. His attempt to place them in the trendy mainstream by mixing industrial guitars with harmless/innocuous samples and breakbeats is ultimately nothing more than hip window dressing, and it takes a bit of steam out of the band's considerable instrumental power. For that reason the album is mildly disappointing, but it still manages to inspire from time to time. The best songs on the album -- the choppy "Arrange" and the propulsively dreamy "Immune" (featured on the Mission: Impossible II soundtrack) -- are gorgeous, sleek, modern rock tunes, angst-filled but neither pandering nor theatrical. Tinfed shows a knack for contagious, blood-boiling hooks, some that pop ("Never Was Sure," the invigorating "Overrated") and some that pulse with a millennial intensity ("Always/Never," "Idol"). While Tinfed is not unequivocally successful or innovative on a sonic level, it is frequently exciting and a terribly promising effort from a band that may eventually cast its own considerable shadow.
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